Posts Tagged ‘Cecil Woolf’

Paula Maggio:

Alice Lowe, contributor to Blogging Woolf, on her latest monograph in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series, “Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am made and remade continually’”

Originally posted on Alice Lowe blogs ... about writing & reading & Virginia Woolf:

It’s a monograph: “a specialist work of writing on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, usually by a single author.” But indulge me–it has an ISBN, an International Standard Book Number, so let’s call it a book–a small book, but a book (we won’t trivialize it with “booklet” or “bookette”). Thank you!

That said, I’m happy to announce that Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am made and remade continually’ has just been released by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. This is my second inclusion in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series, which includes more than 70 publications about the lives and work of Virginia Woolf and others in the Bloomsbury group.

Cecil Woolf is the nephew of Leonard Woolf and the last living link to Virginia Woolf; he proudly points to Virginia’s mentions of him in her diary as “the boy with the sloping nose.” Cecil’s wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, is the general editor of the series…

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Conference organizer Julie Vandivere and student intern Emma Slotterback

Conference organizer Julie Vandivere and student intern Emma Slotterback

I’d never heard of Bloomsburg University before Julie Vandivere volunteered to host the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at her home institution.

Now word of the charming campus and gracious town in which it is located has spread around the world, due to the way the town and the campus teamed up to embrace Woolf, the conference and each one of its nearly 250 participants from as far away as China.

Small-town charm

Welcome Woolf scholars

Just one of the signs welcoming Woolfians to Bloomsburg.

The town’s website boasts “small-town charm and down-home hospitality.” Those weren’t empty words. The town of 14,000 was blanketed with signs welcoming and directing conference goers. Conference events were spread throughout its perimeters. Community members participated in the events and graciously offered directions, greetings and other help. And high school students from the area’s three high schools, Bloomsburg, Berwick and Southern Columbia, had their own pre-conference panels.

The result? Two hundred and six presenters from 14 countries and five continents had the opportunity to fall in love with small town Bloomsburg, Pa., and its university community.

The play, the party, the exhibit, the readings, the banquet

Here are some highlights of the four-day event, Bloomsburg University’s first of an international stature:

    • A total of 68 events — from panels to roundtables to a printmaking workshop to a trip to Rickett’s Glen State Park for a hike and a picnic — with 206 presenters.
    • A powerful Friday evening performance of Ellen McLaughlin’s Septimus and Clarissa by the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. The ensemble had just one day to rehearse and they did a masterful job, with McLaughlin playing the role of the adult Clarissa. According to her, 60 percent of the words in the script were Woolf’s and 40 percent were her own.

      BTE Septimus and Clarissa

      On stage with “Septimus and Clarissa”

    • Mrs. Dalloway’s Party, an after-theater lark that allowed theater goers from the conference and the community to don hats and dress-up clothes and meet and mingle with each other as well as the players, the playwright — and conference guests of honor Cecil Woolf, nephew of Leonard and Virginia, and Jean Moorcroft Wilson, biographer, literary critic and wife of Cecil Woolf.
    • A juried exhibition of works on paper titled The Mark on the Wall that presented the work of 47 artists from as far away as Dubai. Their work, inspired by Woolf and her female contemporaries, was chosen from among more than 400. Co-Best of Show Awards went to Erika Lizée and Carolyn Sheehan. Honorable mentions went to Mischa Brown, Chieko Murasugi and Jacqueline Dee Parker. See the full list of exhibitors. View the catalog to see the entire body of work in the exhibition that will be on display at the Gallery at Greenly Center through June 30. A catalog will be available for purchase on Blurb, as of June 9.
    • A memorial to Woolf scholar Professor Jane Marcus that was coordinated by members of the International Virginia Woolf Society and introduced by Erica Delsandro, co-organizer of the conference.
    • A poetry reading by Cynthia Hogue and a reading by Maggie Gee from her novel Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
    • Saturday evening banquet where Woolf lovers celebrated her work, as well as their comaraderie, and were entertained by a charmingly humorous two-way conversation between Cecil Woolf and his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson in which Woolf shared memories of Virginia and Leonard Woolf as well as other Bloomsbury Group members, including Bertrand Russell and Duncan Grant. Of course, the Virginia Woolf Players also made an appearance, with a troupe of Woolf scholars reading some of their favorite comical and serious passages from her work.

      Jeanne Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf

      Jeanne Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf

    • The introduction of six new books in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series from Cecil Woolf Publishers of London.

The roundtables

    • A roundtable on modernist theory with Celia Marshik, Judith Brown, Allison Pease and Emily Ridge during which the panelists and the audience engaged in a discussion of high and middlebrow modernism and how such studies could do more to include both well-known and lesser known women authors.
    • An introduction to launching a newly proposed journal, Feminist Modernist Studies, edited by Cassandra Laity and Anne Fernald, that will be published twice a year in both print and digital formats and will attempt to expand the modernist literary cannon to include more women by giving them space of their own.

So many panel choices

Each time slot in the conference program included a choice among four or five panels. That made choosing tough, as most times there were two or more panels I wanted to attend. Memorable presentations I attended included:

    • Anne Martin’s presentation on “Village Community and the Coming of War in the Final Novels of Virginia Woolf of and Dorothy L. Sayers,” which made me want to re-read Murder Must Advertise (1933) and Gaudy Night, (1935), as well as The Wimsey Papers.

      Celiese Lypka and Ann Martin

      Celiese Lypka and Ann Martin

    • Patricia Laurence on Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen and her comment on the “porous borders between poetry and prose” as well as the fact that Bowen was an agent for the Ministry of Information during the Great War.
    • Mark Hussey’s paper on Woolf and Rebecca West, in which he coined the term “modernist star system” and shared the fact that the proof version of A Room of One’s Own includes a two-page passage explicitly blaming women for reflecting men back to themselves as larger than they really are. Woolf makes the same point in the final published version but does so in brief. The passage appears after Woolf’s mention of West.
    • Elisa Kay Sparks’ tongue-in-cheek bar graphs on Woolf’s and Georgia O’Keeffe’s use of flowers in their work, with particular attention to – and entertaining visuals of – the calla lily.
    • Maria Aparecida de Oliveira’s fascinating paper on the correspondence between Woolf and Brazilian writer Victoria Ocampo (1893-1979). The two were introduced at Man Ray’s photo exhibit in London in 1934. After her presentation, Maria told me that the two women writers discussed fascism in their late 1930s letters.
    • Leslie Hankins’ slide show of illustrations that accompanied Woolf’s London Scene essays for the British Good Housekeeping, as well as the stories and graphics that surrounded them in the magazine’s layout.
    • Diane Gillespie’s discussion of Woolf’s rejection of novelists who pitched their books to the Hogarth Press, with a focus on Anne Tibble.

      Diane Gillespie

      Diane Gillespie

    • Eleanor McNee’s illumination of Woolf’s animosity towards her two High Anglican cousins, Dorothea and Rosamond Stephen.
    • A panel on “Woolf and the Political,” with Jean Mills advising that when one hears criticism of Woolf’s racism and classicism, one should “consider the diversity of her audience” and Mary Wilson saying we should “consider the servants as the contemporaries” of the writers we study.
    • On that same panel, Ashley Foster presented her original archival research that documents the Bloomsbury Group’s activism in war relief efforts, such as the Quaker relief effort in the Spanish Civil War. Woolf, for example, attended the Spain and Culture event in June 1937 in the Royal Albert Hall. She also sold her manuscript pages of Three Guineas to support relief efforts and lent her name to the fundraising efforts.
    • Emily Hinnov’s interesting comparison of the patriarchal fathers in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.”

      Emily Hinnov

      Emily Hinnov

    • Drew Shannon’s discussion of Woolf’s and Mansfield’s diaries. In his examination of the diaries on microfilm at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, he learned that Woolf’s early diaries were more exercise books than traditional diaries, as she edited them greatly. Woolf used composition books for her diary, and beginning in 1920, Woolf consistently added a long rule on the left side of each page. To the left of that rule, she added the day’s date. Poignantly, Shannon found that Woolf had added the rule on each page of the 1941 diary. All of the pages are ruled, even though the pages after her March 28 death are blank. For readers of Mansfield, he recommended Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, complete edition, edited by Margaret Scott.
    • Karen Levenback brought Florence Melian Stawell to our attention, sharing her work as well as her connections to the Bloomsbury Group.
    • Vara Neverow explained sexual dysphoria in West’s Return of the Soldier, Mrs. Dalloway and the controversial Sylvia Townsend Warner’s “A Love Match.”
    • In a panel titled “Spies and Surveillance,” Mark David Kaufman, Judith Allen and Kimberly Engdahl Coates discussed Woolf and her contemporaries as whistleblowers, subversives and victims of surveillance.

      Sierra Altenbach and Cody Smeltz

      Sierra Altenbach and Cody Smeltz

    • Three undergrads from Bloomsbury University – Cody Smeltz, Sierra Altenbach and Ashley Michler — presented thoughtful papers on modernist masculinity and femininity in the work of H.D., Myna Loy, Emily Coleman and others.

Catch the conference photos

Many photos were taken at the conference and shared via Instagram. Here’s where you can view them:

Catch the conference tweets

Tweets about the conference are still coming in. Find them by searching the hashtag #WoolfConf15. The latest one is posted below, along with a tweet about one of the final panels of the conference.

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Bloomsbury Heritage SeriesEach year at the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf Publishers of London introduces several new monographs in their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and distributes a new catalogue of their publications.

The series of monographs is published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s nephew, Cecil Woolf, under the general editorship of Cecil’s wife, the acclaimed biographerJean Moorcroft Wilson. Following in the tradition of the Hogarth Essays, these booklets range in length from eight to 80 pages and embrace the ‘Life, Works and Times of members of the Bloomsbury Group.’

Here are the six new titles that will debut at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

  1. Natural Connections: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield by Bonnie Kime Scott
  2. `Eternally in yr Debt’: the Personal and Professional Relationship Between Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Robins by Hilary Newman
  3. Saxon Sydney-Turner: The Ghost of Bloomsbury by Todd Avery
  4. Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am Made and Remade Continually’ by Alice Lowe
  5. Mistress of the Brush and Madonna of Bloomsbury, the Art of Vanessa Bell: a Biographical Sketch and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Writings on Vanessa Bell by Suellen Cox

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

  6. Septimus Smith, Modernist and War Poet: A Closer Reading by Vara S. Neverow

You can also download the Cecil Woolf Publishers: 2015 Bloomsbury Heritage Catalogue and Order Form and view the complete list of the monographs available in the series.

Cecil is the featured speaker at the conference’s Saturday evening  banquet, where he will share stories of his experiences with Virginia and Leonard.

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25th annual conferenceIf you are still sitting on the fence about attending the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, now is the time to jump off that fence, block off June 4-7 on your calendar, and get ready to travel to Bloomsburg, Pa.

The conference, held at Bloomsburg University, is on the theme Virginia Woolf and Her Contemporaries and will feature some real excitement. Here are some highlights now available on the conference website.

More updates will follow, and registration will open soon.

Cecil and Jean are coming to town

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

Most exciting of all will be Cecil Woolf as the featured speaker at the Saturday evening  banquet — and the attendance of acclaimed author Jean Moorcroft Wilson. The couple head up Cecil Woolf Publishers of London. Cecil is the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and Jean is a well-respected critic and biographer of the World War I poets and the leading authority on Siegfried Sassoon.

Cecil and Jean have not attended a Woolf conference since 2010, so their participation in this year’s event is a long overdue treat, both for young scholars who have never had the opportunity to meet this notable couple and for Woolfians who have been befriended by the pair at previous events. As is customary at Cecil’s talks, he will share stories of his experiences with Virginia and Leonard.

Septimus, Clarissa and Mrs. Dalloway’s Party

Mary Gordon, Rachel Dickstein and Ellen Mclaughlin at a performance of "Septimus and Clarissa" in New York City in October 2011.

Mary Gordon, Rachel Dickstein and Ellen Mclaughlin at a performance of “Septimus and Clarissa” in New York City in October 2011.

A theatrical reading of Septimus and Clarissa with award-winning playwright and author Ellen McClaughlin and the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble is on the schedule. The reading will be followed by Mrs. Dalloway’s Party, giving everyone the opportunity to dress up — or not — in their own duds or the ensemble’s costume collection of hats and scarves.

Poetry and comic fiction readings

Poetry and fiction readings are on the program, with Cynthia Hogue, who has published eight collections of poetry, and Maggie Gee, author of the comic novel that places Woolf in the 21st century, Virginia Woolf in ManhattanVirginia Woolf in Manhattan

From papers to art with a Mark on the Wall

Conference organizers Julie Vandivere and Erica Delsandro have issued a call for papers, and those proposals are due Jan. 24. But a new and exciting twist this year is the call for entries in a juried exhibition of small works on paper that is fittingly titled Mark on the Wall. The entry deadline for those is April 20.

Community members unafraid of Woolf

The conference is also involving local community of all ages. The community is encouraged to form reading groups to read and discuss Woolf novels in advance of the conference.

Organizers are also providing print and multi-media resources to local high school teachers on two of Woolf’s most famous works — A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925) in an effort to get high school students to attend conference presentations and present their own papers. Conference organizers will produce a journal of the best high school and undergraduate papers, and all high school students who present will be able to submit their papers for publication.

Even on a budget

Conference organizers have gone out of their way to make this year’s conference affordable. Registration rates take employment and student status into account, and the registration fee for the four-day event includes six meals. Reasonably woolf_callforentriespriced recently renovated residence hall rooms near the conference site are available, along with other accommodations within the town.

Support the conference

The Bloomsburg conference has several sponsors, including individuals who have donated funds to the Bloomsburg University Foundation to help bring noted speakers to campus and provide travel grants to needy participants. If you would like to make a contribution, you can do so online by donating to the Bloomsburg University Foundation. Just be sure to select “Other” from the designation dropdown menu, and specify “Woolf 2015″ in the field provided.


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Joyce Muirhead of the Woolf Plaque Supporters has provided Blogging Woolf with the text of Cecil Woolf’s speech delivered on Frome Railway Station at 2 o’clock on Saturday 22nd, which is posted below. It was made at the unveiling of the blue plaque to memorialize Leonard Woolf’s 11 January 1912 journey to London where he proposed to Virginia Stephen. Blogging Woolf readers helped fund the plaque. 

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Frome Station.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Frome Station

How do you relate a saga that lasted about seven years, full of fascinating detail, in ten minutes ? Well, I will try.

When Leonard Woolf met Virginia Stephen one summer afternoon in 1903,  we don’t know if it was love at first sight, but we do know from Leonard’s autobiography written half a century later, that her beauty, in a white dress and parasol, ‘took [his] breath away’.

Virginia Woolf – to give her her married name – has become a household name, not only in this country and America, but worldwide, so she needs no introduction from me. Leonard was my uncle – that is to say, one of my father’s older brothers. He was an extraordinary man: author and journalist, political thinker and campaigner, feminist, co-founder of a distinguished publishing house and has been pointed out both as a pivotal member and outsider of the Bloomsbury group. As husband of one of the great writers of the twentieth century, he has been somewhat eclipsed, but I think one can say, that without Leonard, the name Virginia Woolf would quite probably be unknown today.

I broke off with Leonard’s brief encounter with Virginia in 1903. For the next six and a half years he lost sight of her while he worked as a Colonial administrator in that far-flung outpost of the British Empire, Ceylon. During that time he kept in close touch with his friend and fellow-undergraduate at Cambridge, Lytton Strachey. In one of his letters to Leonard Lytton announces that he has proposed marriage to Virginia – and been accepted. Lytton, as we all know was gay, so it must have been a relief to all three of them, especially Leonard, that the engagement lasted only 24 hours, thus leaving the field open to himself. Leonard wrote at once to his friend, (I quote) ‘The most wonderful [thing] of all would have been to marry Virginia. She is I imagine supreme [‘supreme’ is a world that occurs frequently in their correspondence]. Do you think she would have me? Wire me, if she accepts. I’ll take the next boat home.’ He asked Lytton to ‘hand on’ his proposal of marriage via her sister Vanessa. Whether either Lytton or Vanessa passed it on we do not know.

Beresford portrait of Virginia Woolf

Beresford portrait of Virginia Woolf

Two years were to pass before Leonard was due for home leave. When he returned, in June 1911. he lost no time in seeking out Miss Stephen. At this time she is described as rather ‘fierce in her manner to most men’. She was a notably beautiful young woman, as we know from Beresford’s iconic photographic portrait, and it is not surprising that she had about half a dozen suitors. But Leonard was not ‘most men’ and the years in Ceylon, ruling an area almost as large as Wales, had not only radically changed his thinking on Colonialism but gained him a great deal  of self-confidence, which together with his steely determination was to stand him in good stead in his courtship of Virginia Stephen.

Leonard’s sister, Bella Sidney Woolf, understood her younger brother well. She wrote to him, ‘You need a very special girl and if you don’t find her you’d better steer clear of matrimony . . . .  If you marry a weak character you’ll squash her. You must marry someone who can hold her own with you and yet be good tempered’.

Sadly, there is no time this afternoon for details. We must fast forward to the time when, at last, Leonard boldly decided the time had come to propose marriage to Virginia. There are a number of versions of Leonard’s proposals, depending on which biography you read, but the one we are here to celebrate today took place on 11 January 1912 when Leonard was staying with his friend the Rector of the Church of St Mary Magdalene at Great Elm. Let me quote what he writes in his autobiography: ‘The change from the incessant whirl of London to the quiet somnolence of a Somerset rectory was the passing straight from a tornado into a calm, or from a saturnalia into a monastery. At last I had time to think. It took me 48 hours to come to a decision and on Wednesday I wired to Virginia asking whether I could see her next day. Next day I went up to London and asked her to marry me. She said she did not know and must have time – indefinite time – to see more of me before she could make up her mind . . .’ (Beginning Again, pp. 52-3)

When Leonard got back to Great Elm Rectory after his visit, before going to bed he wrote to Virginia: ‘I have not got any very clear recollection of what I really said to you this afternoon but I am sure you knew why I came – I don’t mean merely that I was in love but that that together with uncertainty drives me to do these things. Perhaps I was wrong, for before this week I always intended not to tell you unless I felt sure that you were in love & would marry me. I thought then that you liked me but that was all. I never realised how much I loved you until we talked about my going back to Ceylon. After that I could think about nothing but you. I got into a state of hopeless uncertainty, whether you loved me or could ever love me or even like me. God, I hope I shall never spend such a time again as I spent here until I telegraphed. I wrote to you once saying I would speak to you next Monday but then I felt I should be mad if I waited until then to see you. So I wired. I knew you would tell me exactly what you felt. You were exactly what I knew you are & if I hadn’t been in love before I would now. It isn’t, really it isn’t, merely because you are so beautiful – though of course that is a large reason & so it should be – that I love you: it is your mind & your character – I have never known anyone like you in that – won’t you believe that?

‘And now I will do absolutely whatever you want. I don’t think you want me to go away, but if you did, I would at once. If not, I don’t see why we cannot go on the same as before – I think I can – and then if you do find that you could love me you would tell me.

‘I hardly know whether I am saying what I mean or feel. I am extraordinarily tired. A dense mist covered the whole of Somerset & the train was late & I had to crawl my way from the station for 3 miles to the house.’

He ends by writing: ‘Don’t you think that the entrance of Walter almost proves the existence of a deity?’

This last sentence refers to Walter Lamb, another suitor, having arrived while Leonard was with Virginia, which helps to explain the confusion which Leonard alludes to in the opening of his letter.

I know our time is short, but I cannot resist quoting two passages from a letter Virginia was to write to Leonard on May Day 1912: ‘It seems to me that I am giving you a great deal of pain – some in the most casual way – and therefore I ought to be as plain with you as I can, because half of the time I suspect, you’re in a fog which I don’t see at all. Of course I can’t explain what I feel – these are some of the things that strike me. The obvious advantages of marriage stand in my way. I say to myself, Anyhow, you’ll be quite happy with him; and he will give you companionship, children, and a busy life – then I say By God, I will not look upon marriage as a profession. The only people who know of it, all think it suitable; and that makes me scrutinise my own motives all the more. Then, of course, I feel angry sometimes at the strength of your desire. Possibly, your being a Jew comes in also at this point. You seem so foreign. And then I am fearfully unstable. I pass from hot to cold in an instant, without any reason; except that I believe sheer physical effort and exhaustion influence me. All I can say is that in spite of these feelings which go chasing each other all day long when I am with you, there is some feeling which is permanent and growing.’

This is a long letter and towards the end she writes: ‘If you can still go on, as before, letting me find my own way, as that is what would please me best; and then we must both take the risks. But you have made me very happy too. We both of us want a marriage that is a tremendous living thing, always alive, always hot, not dead and easy in parts as most marriages are. We ask a great deal of life, don’t we? Perhaps we shall get it; then, how splendid!’

It is a letter which sends mixed messages. A lesser man than Leonard would I think have been deterred. But Leonard was ready to let Virginia ‘find [her] own way’ and go on as before.. It must have been a golden moment for him when later in May she agreed to marry him. They were wedded on Saturday, 10 August 1912.

As for the marriage, as most of you will know, it was a successful one, despite Virginia’s recurring mental breakdowns. Leonard, as a husband, has been variously depicted as either a long-suffering saint or a harsh, overbearing tyrant. I think Virginia herself should have the last words on the subject. After twenty years of marriage she wrote, ‘If it were not for L[eonard] how many times I should be thinking of death’. (Hermione Lee, p. 319) And again, a few hours before she decided to end her life in 1941, she wrote: ‘I want to tell you that you have given me complete happiness. No one could have done more than you have done. . . . No one could have been so good as you have been’. (Hermione Lee pp. 759-60)

And to close, I would like to pay a very warm tribute to the Woolf Plaque Supporters for all the hard work and loving care that has gone into this permanent celebration of an historical  link. I must also thank Mr Nicholas Reid, the Manager of Frome Railway Station (as well as most of the south-west), without whose support and commitment this project could not have been brought to fruition. I would also like to mention the image of the intertwined elm trees on the plaque that you’ll see in a moment, which have a double significance: firstly they symbolise the village from which Leonard set out on his romantic mission and secondly they remind us of the two great elm trees that stood at the end of the Woolfs’ garden at their Sussex country retreat, one of which Virginia named Leonard, the other Virginia. Their ashes were scattered at the foot of their respective tree.

It gives me great pleasure to unveil  this tablet.

Leonard Woolf bust

Bust of Leonard Woolf in the garden at Monk’s House, Sussex

V Woolf bust Monk's House

Bust of Virginia Woolf in the garden at Monk’s House, Sussex

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Joyce Muirhead of the Woolf Plaque Supporters has provided Blogging Woolf with the following report on Saturday’s unveiling of the blue plaque at the Frome Railway Station to memorialize Leonard Woolf’s 11 January 1912 journey to London where he proposed to Virginia Stephen. Blogging Woolf readers helped fund the plaque. 

They came.  From Huntington, Cambridge, Bristol,  Broadway, Worcestershire, from Cheshire and of course many from London, including Bloomsbury, driving for two, three or four hours across country on a damp chilly late November day to honour the memory of a journey made by Leonard Woolf from Frome Railway Station to London, Paddington to propose marriage to Virginia Stephen.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Frome Station after the unveiling of the blue plaque commemorating Leonard Woolf's proposal to Virginia Stephen.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Frome Station after the unveiling of the blue plaque commemorating Leonard Woolf’s proposal to Virginia Stephen.

Nicholas Reid gave an accomplished speech mentioning that as manager of many stations on the Heart of Wessex line, Frome is a favourite.  He elucidated the history and iconic status of Frome Station, with its unique shed style, within the national rail network.  He briefly outlined the trials in achieving all necessary permissions to erecting the plaque, despite renewal of franchise, total refurbishment of the station and the worst floods in living memory.  He hoped that it would encourage passengers, glimpsing the plaque as they journeyed to and from the coast, to stop off and visit Frome.

Cecil Woolf gave a vivid and lively speech, in spite of his eye operation only two days previously and his three-hour drive through difficult traffic conditions, and spoke movingly and affectionately of his uncle and aunt, Leonard and Virginia.  He talked of their first meeting, of Leonard’s reaction to her astonishing beauty, of their courtship and of Leonard’s recollections of Frome half a century later. He read from the letter Leonard Woolf wrote from The Rectory at Great Elm, which expressed  his turmoil and exhaustion of that day and he went on to speak of their subsequent marriage and the many extraordinary achievements that their partnership produced.  He then unveiled the plaque to enthusiastic applause.

Graham Muirhead, as chairman of the Woolf Plaque Supporters, the group responsible for raising the funds and organising the event, thanked Cecil Woolf, Nicholas Reid and his colleagues from First Great Western, three successive mayors and the town council, the donors and the Societies who had contributed so generously and travelled so far for their support.   Finally, he expressed the hope that the plaque would inspire others to set out on their own journeys and to explore this rich vein of literature.

After photographs, the arrival of the next train signalled a move to the Cheese & Grain hall where Lotty Evans produced a delicious afternoon tea inspired by the Bloomsbury Cook Book. It provided a fitting finish to a thoroughly successful and enjoyable afternoon while people chatted and looked at the display of quotations and photographs.

Those attending the unveiling included: Mrs Sheila Wilkinson co-founder and vice chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and her husband David; Dr Surendra Paul, chairman, Leonard Woolf Society; Nathan Sivasambu, co-ordinator, Ceylon Bloomsbury Group; Dr. Jane Russell and Seneca Weeraman, Leonard Woolf Society members; Martin Bax M.B.E., chairman of trustees, Rook Lane Chapel; Dr Emma Robinson, chairman, Frome Heritage Museum; Councillor Peter MacFadyen, Mayor of Frome; and members of the Woolf Plaque Supporters.

Read a BBC News report of the plaque unveiling.

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With the exception of Virginia and Leonard Woolf themselves, Caroline Zoob and her husband Jonathan are thevw garden only two people who have had access to the garden at Monk’s House year in and year out. But we can all get a glimpse of the year-round beauty of that special place through Virginia Woolf’s Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk’s House

As Zoob puts it in her Introduction, the couple “opened the curtains each day to see the garden spread out below, still shaped according to Leonard’s inspiration” during their decade-long tenancy of Monk’s House, from 2000-2011.

And in his Foreward to the volume, Cecil Woolf, Leonard’s nephew, offers recollections that go back even farther. He writes about his visits, beginning in 1936, to “that charming house and garden” where he pushed open “the creaking wooden gate” to what he remembers as a “little Eden.” The book, he writes, “brings back memories of long-ago visits before and after the war.”

Story of a home and garden’s evolution

Zoob’s 192-page book is divided into seven chapters that tell the story of the home and the garden’s evolution since 1919, when the Woolfs discovered the home in Rodmell, Sussex and were immediately enamored of the garden. The hefty book gives us a tour of that garden and fills in the background as well. And at the end of each chapter, a different garden “room” is described in detail.

Featured throughout are full-color photographs by Caroline Arber, who was a frequent visitor to Monk’s House during the Zoob’s tenure at the home. The photos include wide views of garden elements such as The Flower Walk — the borders running from the lawn steps to the Orchard — and crisp close-ups of individual flowers, such as Leonard’s beloved roses. They show Monk’s House and its garden transformed by the seasons — with the bursting bulbs of spring, the vibrantly colorful blooms of summer and the snow-capped garden sculptures of winter.

Old alongside the new

Archival photos of the Woolfs and their friends at Monk’s House are juxtaposed alongside photos of Monk’s House in the present day. An old photo that I had never before seen pictures Virginia standing outside her first writing lodge, which was converted from a toolshed. Zoob found the photo at Sissinghurst, and although a cropped version was printed in Volume 3 of Woolf’s Letters, the untrimmed new version includes the loft ladder.

Leonard's desk, as pictured on Pages 122-123.

Leonard’s desk, as pictured on Pages 122-123.

Interior close-ups of such things as both Virginia’s and Leonard’s writing desks are a special treat. Others show intimate views of details not available to visitors to the house. One includes an oak step leading toward the kitchen that is visibly work with use. Another is a 1970 photo showing the kitchen before the National Trust remodeled it for tenants.

Charming garden layouts in textiles

Another charming element of the book are the garden layouts. At first glance, they all look like watercolor sketches — and some of them are — but upon closer inspection it is clear others are textile art — a combination of embroidery and appliqué with inserted text.

Treasure available Oct. 14

The Italian Garden, picture in fabric art at left and in a photograph at right.

The Italian Garden, pictured in fabric art at left and in a photograph at right.

The book, an indispensable treasure for any Woolf fan, Anglophile, or gardener, will be available in hardback from from Jacqui Small Publishing Oct. 14.

Zoob, an embroiderer and textile artist, is the author of The Hand-Stitched Home and Childhood Treasures.

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